Nutritional Labels for Keto: Everything You Need to Know

Enriching your diet with whole foods that don’t come with labels such as meats, vegetables, fruits, and other fresh foods naturally low in sugars and carbs is one way to avoid having to decipher nutrition labels every time you hit the grocery store.

However, there will undoubtedly come a time where the skill of reading a nutrition label is something that will come in handy, and can truly prove to be beneficial to your health.

For many people, reading these labels can be akin to reading hieroglyphics and it’s no wonder why.

So many ingredients contain unrecognizable names because they’re created in labs, and names you are familiar with, such as sugar and sodium, now have a whole slew of alternative names, only making consumers more confused about what they are consuming.

In the United States, the trend in the past several years has been to have more nutritional facts advertised prominently on the front of food packages in addition to the back, which can be also be misleading.

In this article, where going to break down nutritional keto labels so you can make the best decisions for your keto diet.

Carbohydrates

When it comes to the keto diet, it’s all about the carbs. The carbs you can consume are calculated on a net carb basis. This is because only net carbs are used by your body for energy.

You most likely will not see net carbs on nutrition labels, so it’s important for you to do the simple calculations yourself.

What the nutrition label does contain in regards to carbs are the Total Carbohydrates, Sugar, Dietary Fiber, and sometimes it might even contain Sugar Alcohols.

To get the net carb count of a food item, take the total carbohydrates on the food label and subtract the dietary fiber and sugar alcohols (if listed) from it.

Example:

Total Carbohydrate (5 grams) – Dietary Fiber (1 gram) = 4 grams of Net Carbs

While calories also matter on the ketogenic diet and you should keep an eye on these, they aren’t as important as keeping your carbohydrates low.

Sugars

You might have noticed that sugar is incredibly prevalent in many of the foods we buy, and consequently, companies will do everything in their power to mislead consumers and prevent them from realizing how much sugar is in their product.

When it comes to sugar, there are at least 60 different names for it listed on food labels! Some of these names include sucrose, dextrose, maltose, rice syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, and organic cane sugar, among others.

Sugar has been found to play a key role in a variety of illnesses, from diabetes to heart disease[1], and should really be avoided on any diet.

When you see sugar listed on a nutrition label, this means the sugar is not naturally present in the food, but was added.

So be mindful of any food that has added sugar, as it can lead to a spike in your blood sugar levels. Just because a label calls their sugar organic sugar doesn’t make it a good thing.

Dietary Fiber

When calculating the net carbs, we subtract dietary fiber from the total carbs because it’s something your body cannot digest and use as energy. But your body still needs dietary fiber to function, so it should never be left out!

You can use the nutrition label as a guide on your daily fiber intake. While on the keto diet, you should actually be eating more than the recommended 25 grams of fiber. But the labels will give you a good idea.

While many calories from vegetables come from carbohydrates, the majority of these in keto friendly veggies are from fiber.

Fat

Total fat is another item you’ll see on every nutrition label, and is the sum of trans fats, saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats. Try to stay away from trans fats, as they are most often found in processed foods.

Polyunsaturated fats are also often highly processed. Studies have shown a direct correlation between consuming too many foods containing these fats and increased rates of heart disease[2].

Keep in mind that the total fat calories for keto dieters should make up roughly between 65-75% of your daily caloric intake. This number, of course, depends on a variety of factors, like your age, weight, height, etc. On a 2000 calorie diet, this would come out to about 1300-1500 calories from fat alone.

Ingredients

It’s always a great idea to look through a product’s ingredients instead of relying on what is advertised on the front of the package. This will tell you exactly what is in your food.

Some common ingredients you want to avoid include artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame. These will digest like carbs in your body. Natural sweeteners, on the other hand, such as stevia and sugar alcohols, are perfectly fine.

Chicory root fiber has become another popular way to sweeten food without adding more calories, but this is a healthy ingredient that is beneficial to your body.

Other toxic ingredients to steer clear of include:

  • Palm oil
  • Shortening
  • White flour
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole
  • Sodium nitrates and sodium nitrites
  • MSG

Food labels are an important source of information about the nutritional value and calories you eat. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but begin reading labels and start learning more about common ingredients you find on the foods you’re consuming.

By taking nutritional label-reading more seriously, you will set the stage for building a heart-healthy and overall more nutritious diet.

More Readings:

Keto Fast Food: How to Keep Low-Carb On the Go

Low Carb Sugar Substitutes: Sweet Alternatives to Sugar

Keto Bulletproof Coffee Recipe

References:

 

[1] Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, Flander WD, Merritt R, Hu FB. Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Apr;174(4).

[2] Shen, Jian & Johnson, Victor & M Sullivan, Lisa & Jacques, Paul & Magnani, Jared & Lubitz, Steven & Pandey, Shivda & Levy, Daniel & S Vasan, Ramachandran & Quatromoni, Paula & Junyent, Mireia & Ordovas, Jose & Benjamin, Emelia. (2011). Dietary factors and incident atrial fibrillation: The Framingham Heart Study. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 93. 261-6. 10.3945/ajcn.110.001305.

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Jessica Cotzin is a freelance writer, web developer, and avid traveler. Born and raised in South Florida, she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Multi-Media Journalism from Florida Atlantic University and currently resides in Miami Beach. Her passions lie in reading great literature and traveling the world, bumping blindly into new adventures.

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